Philippines' largest Muslim rebel group vows to protect Christians helping in Marawi's reconstruction

The biggest Muslim rebel group in the Philippines has promised to help protect the Christians who are involved in the project to rebuild the embattled city of Marawi, which was besieged by terrorists linked with the Islamic State earlier this year.

(REUTERS / Romeo Ranoco)Damaged buildings as government troops continue their assault in Marawi, Philippines. September 14, 2017.

According to Archbishop Edwin de la Peña of Marawi, Moro Islamic Liberation Front leader Al Haj Murad Ebrahim met with him in Rome and promised to provide security for his outreach in the embattled city. The Catholic Church's program, which is called 'Duyog Marawi' aims to foster healing, peace, and reconstruction in the town still currently torn by clashes, Asia News detailed.

Duyog Marawi is a rehabilitation program which will touch 13 coastal communities near Marawi that were heavily impacted by the conflict. It has also provided refuge for the people displaced in the war-torn city. Msgr. Dela Peña called on Christians to help the government, the Church, and other agencies so that peace will reign over extremism in the country.

"It is a critical moment in the history of Muslim and Christian relations in Marawi," Archbishop Dela Peña said. "This will either bring us closer or will widen the gap."

"The peace in Marawi will not only benefit the Maranaos, it will benefit all of us – the whole of humanity," he explained. "Let us show to the world that violent extremist ideas will not flourish in our lands."

Earlier this month, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte agreed with Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana's statement that said the rehabilitation of Marawi will cost billions of pesos. The president, who visited the city at least four times and saw the extent of damage caused by the clashes, said the government's initial pledge of ₱50 billion will not suffice, CNN Philippines reported.

In light of the situation, Lanao del Sur Crisis Management Committee Spokesperson Zia Alonto Adiong said Congress should pass a law which will allocate a budget for the rehabilitation of Marawi.

Meanwhile, the Armed Forces said the battle for Marawi will soon be over. However, the clashes are expected to intensify as the government troops make their "final push" to liberate the city from the Maute terrorists.